Archive for March, 2014

A New Old Campaign

For some time now some of my co-workers have been asking me to start up a new D&D campaign.  The main force behind this is actually a guy who was in my previous campaign, but there did seem to be a general desire around the office to play.  Seriously that’s one of the big advantages of working in video games — I have yet to work anywhere that didn’t have enough people interested in playing D&D to actually start a group.  This one was a bit surprising though.  Out of the 20 or so employees in the office, 9 players have asked to be part of the campaign.  I imagine one or two may start to flake out as it goes on, but our first session is scheduled for this Wednesday and as far as I know all 9 players will be there.

The campaign location will be the same world I’ve been running since my blog reset back in 2010.  My goal at the time was to start a campaign world that I could continually run stuff in that would eventually become deep and full of content simply by virtue of playing in it for so long.  I had heard stories of guys running the same world for decades, and I was jealous.  Well, it’s actually is working.  I have a huge hex map of the known part of the world and tons of adventure leads to start this new campaign out.  I’m pretty excited actually.

The group is an interesting melange of newbies and old hats.  As I said, one of the guys has been playing in my campaigns for years and I sort of think of him as the backbone of the group.  Or at least the cheerleader.  Certainly he’ll be the one to lead between-game conversations and keep the energy up, and frankly, I’m super grateful to have a player like that.  That kind of player can really make the difference between a game that trudges on and one that everyone is really excited to play every week.

Then I have at least one guy who has never played any version of D&D before.  This is a guy that will have trouble telling a d8 from a d10.  I like this kind of player just as much, because newbies have a great way of not letting themselves be bound by the rules.  They are far more likely to try something crazy that makes me scramble to make up rules on the spot and inevitably leads to a really awesome and memorable scene.  I do, however, have trouble answering him when he asks the simple question “What edition are we playing?”  I’m so steeped in the history now that I find it difficult to answer that question without going on for half an hour about the history of the game.

The funny thing is, I’m almost tempted to start calling what I play “OD&D”.  The fact is, I use the B/X books, but the majority of my house rules are focused on adding OD&D and AD&D 1e style stuff (race/class split, multi-classing, spell progression, etc.)  When I compare how I run the game to how others run OD&D, I’d say my game is more OD&D like than Basic D&D like.  And there’s something really nice about being able to answer the above question as simply “We play the original edition.  You know, the first one ever made.”  Most neophyte players understand numbers, and have a vague impression that there’s a 1st edition, 2nd edition, etc.  Trying to explain this weird non-numbered branch of the game that existed in the 80’s is a bit cumbersome.

However, the books I have at the table are undeniably the B/X books.  I have one set for my own use behind the screen, and one on the table for the players.  The fact is, I find the language and the organization of these books much more usable at the table than the LBBs.  While the spirit of what I play may be infused by ideas in the LBBs, I think the B/X books are just far more functional as reference material mid-session.

Anyway, I seem to have wandered pretty far off course here.  The point is, I have a new campaign starting up, using the same good old world and system I was using back in the halcyon days of 38.  I’m pretty darn excited, and I expect it will lead to a bunch more posting at this site again.

TotalCon Review

OK, it’s been a week, it’s high time I reflect on last TotalCon.  I think I can honestly say: best con ever.  And I really wasn’t expecting that.  If anything I really threw this con together last minute: I fell backwards into a room with a friend that needed a roommate, the games I ran were a collection of games I’ve run at other cons because I was too busy to write any new material, and by the time we arrived I had completely forgotten everything I had signed up to play.  I was even surprised when opening my envelope of tickets to discover I had pre-paid for a t-shirt.  Wow, it was like a nice little present from my past self.  Thanks Paul of the Past!

My games ran pretty well.  Actually, oddly my Thursday evening game for which I expected low turnout, and planned an adventure that was easy to scale, had 8 people show up.  Friday afternoon, on the other hand, I had to cancel because only 2 showed up.  The last game I ran on Saturday afternoon had an almost completely full table of 9 players.  The lesson is there’s really no good way to predict how many players you get, and you just have to be ready to roll with the punches.  Thankfully on Friday Tim was running a continuation of a game I played in a previous year, and he was gracious enough to let me join his over-full table.

The games I did run were good, and the games I played in were mostly good as well.  There were some that were great and some that dragged a bit, nothing unusual for a convention.  What really made this “the best con ever” for me though was the people.  First off, now that I’ve been going for 5 years running, I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces every year.  Often times I wouldn’t remember their names if it wasn’t printed on a badge hung from their neck, but fortunately it is, and it’s very easy to fall into the usual casual conversations.  However, in addition to a general sense of camaraderie, my roommate for the weekend made an important introduction to some other folks with the casual comment of “Huh, I’m surprised you guys haven’t met yet.”

It’s a funny connection – my TotalCon roommate is an old friend from college and happens to now live in the same town as I do.  He goes to TotalCon for the board games, I go for the RPGs, so besides the occasional meal together and chat in the evening, we don’t really see much of each other at the convention.  Lara, the first person he introduced me to,  was an ex-coworker.  It just happens that he was connected in these random ways with two people who are both RPG nuts and have been going to TotalCon for years.

And so Lara introduced me to her sister, and her sister’s husband, and they being gregarious people introduced me to a whole ton of other people I had never met before.  I was invited to join them at the hotel bar after the games Friday night, which was full of good humor and great conversation.  I went there again Saturday, at which point I found myself being led through the halls from one party to another.  Who knew there were after-hours parties at TotalCon?

Well, I would if I thought about it.  A couple years ago I posted about the insanely loud people in the next room.  Was this them?  Maybe.  I get the impression there are plenty of other late night parties at this thing.  I mentioned this anecdote of my loud neighbors at one of the parties, and got the very apropos response “well, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em!”  And why not?  I already learned the lesson of “don’t play 8 AM games”.  In fact, I scheduled nothing earlier than 10 AM, and honestly, if I missed one of those it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  So I stayed up late, had a few too many beers, and generally just had an awesome time.

Being at a party full of gamers you don’t know is a very interesting experience too.  It’s like a normal party full of people you don’t know, only there’s this wonderful implicit topic of conversation.  I never felt awkward talking to a single person — they all had very interesting things to say, and were interested in what I had to say.  It was almost surreal.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to going back, and it seems my new friends are now trying to recruit me into GMing games at Carnage on the Mountain, a convention in November up in VT.  It’s not taking very much arm twisting at all.